What’s In Your Playlist? – MARS B

Mars B’s EP ‘Still’ was released on the 9TH of November 2018 to much anticipation from the live music circles of Singapore’s independent music scene. Spanning four tracks, the soulful offering from the vocalist included appearances by saxophonist Kaye of Cosa Nostra (Darker Than Wax) as well as keyboardist Naztykeys. All tracks were produced by Fauxe and the EP hits a sweet spot if you love soulful vocals backed by jazzy beats.

Revision Music’s Nez Senja interviews Mars B and gets the low down on the process of creating the EP, the artiste’s inspirations as well as influences in music via a Spotify playlist curated by the artiste herself.

Hi Mars! How are you doing? Thanks for taking time off for this interview and doing up this awesome Spotify playlist.

Heya! I’m great, thank you for having me on board.

What got you into music at an early age, was it singing or maybe somebody around you who was playing instruments or singing around the house? 

No one in my house plays any instruments or sings. I would say I first got into music thanks to my late dad. He would ever so often play boogie tunes from groups like ABBA, the Bee Gees and the occasional Sinatra in the car to and from trips, so music was always around.

Like any girl of 14, I was highly impressionable. It’s no surprise that when one of my secondary school mates brought his guitar to school, I wanted one as well. I waited for my parents to be overseas before I headed to the only store that sold a guitar I could afford.. the nearest sports shop. Sports shop! I know, don’t ask. I thought, ‘Finally, I can play the rhythm guitar bits to Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’s songs!’ Haha.. till this day, I still don’t know if it was an acoustic or classical guitar. Nonetheless, my very first instrument! I played till I didn’t suck so bad. I was stuck in the psychedelic-indie pop phase for the longest time. Bands like Warpaint, MGMT, The XX fuelled most of my teenage life.

Everything changed when I heard Lianne La Havas’s Gone. I think I was about 19? Oh man, I fell so hard into a LHL hole. Pretty sure I’m still there. I’d never been so sure of something in my life – that it was the kind of music I wanted to make. Soulful music. From her, I started discovering more Soul & R&B acts. I know this sounds cliche as heck but I wanted to make music people could feel. The way her music transported me, I wanted that for my music. She remains one of my biggest influences, no doubt.

How did the idea for this EP come about? I believe Fauxe produced all 4 tracks on this EP, correct me if I am wrong. Were you doing other projects before the idea of this EP was born? 

The EP was something I wanted to do for the longest time. I had been performing originals for some time then but nothing was online or professionally recorded. Prior to this release, I had only one live studio session of an original and a feature on Tim De Cotta’s The Warrior album. I thought it was about damn time I got to work.

I was lucky when the grant for my EP fell through some time in the middle of 2017! Unfortunately, I was experiencing one of the most excruciating creative droughts ever! I was in quite the rut, having just lost my dad so writing took a backseat.

It was only in March this year that I ‘force-started’ my writing. With the grant came a deadline I had to meet, pronto! Question was, ‘with who?’ It was then that my friend and manager Sano, linked me up with Fauxe (who at that point in time, I had not personally met). It was meant to be a ‘test’ session but that didn’t take away any of the jitters as it was my first ever legit studio session.. but all the jitters fell away almost immediately. Chris made me feel at ease and we got along fabolously.

I’ve never actually met Kaye. After we were done arranging Daze, I mentioned to Chris how dope it would be if we had a sax or a trumpet play over the remaining bars. He mentioned he knew someone and next thing I knew, he sent the track over to Kaye and he played over it. Cray-zay!

I always knew I wanted Naz to play on the EP so I invited him to come and hang with us during one of the studio sessions – to see if he could vibe or jam to any of the tracks. Two weeks later, Still became Still !

Can’t thank Kaye and Naz enough for being so keen on collaborating on the EP.

How was the process with Fauxe? Did he write the beats and arrangement first – for you to write verses and choruses to – or was it a collaborative process where Fauxe was heavily involved throughout?

Definitely collaborative! We started off pretty flexible. If I had a tune in my head, I’d hum it and he’d find the arrangement to fit it. Other times, I’d write to something he played. It was more of a ‘you play and sing whatever and let’s see if we can vibe’ sort of thing. He’d play something on the spot and see if I could get with it. Or if I had an idea, I’d bring it to the next session and see if we could infuse it. Then we’d see if we could blend both our ideas into the tracks. We’d start each track from scratch and save it, then continue where we left off during the next session.

My personal favourites are Still and Alone which I feel has this uplifting, almost gospel like quality to it. It almost seems that you are finding closure with this track, with regards to the message you are putting forth. What is your view on spirituality and how it may affect a human being from day to day, trying to tackle challenges in the many facets of life? How does spirituality affect you, as an individual first, then also as an artiste?

Funny you ask, the experience behind this EP has been quite an insane roller coaster. Oh man, I found myself questioning so many many things from start till the end. Self-reflection became a daily thing. I was so lost in the beginning, I didn’t know what exactly I wanted out of it. I was still struggling with accepting certain things in my life and that was holding me back big time, creatively too.

Through the sessions with Chris (Fauxe), I gradually learned to focus less on things I couldn’t control and to bottom-line, just stay true to myself and my art. All the insecurities, fears started to fade away. Hard to explain but things just started falling into place. I felt lighter, less burdened.

Long story short, I look at spirituality as more of a belief system. How you think about things. I read somewhere that our thoughts are also energies, that it creates its own space and time – its own world. And that in turn, creates its own emotions & mind. Our emotions, our mind. A domino effect, to say the least. I guess if anything, I’ve adopted a more expansive view of not just myself, but the world around me. Hard to explain but seeing things in this ‘new’ light has somewhat organically, given me more things to write about.

Let’s dive into this playlist of yours, I am a big fan of Ibrahim Ferrer myself and anything Buena Vista Social Club or anything Cuban that is melancholic like the song Chan Chan. What draws you to this song, which is of course the Spanish original to the more popular English version Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps?

I can’t agree more!

My attachment to Quizás, Quizás, Quizás is more of a sentimental one. It dates back to 2015. I was interning in London, a little homesick & hanging around Portobello Market looking for some pick me up waffles and records. I heard people cheering and a familiar tune playing. I turned the corner and saw the happiest bunch of strangers pairing up, and dancing without a care in the world to an elderly couple karaoke-ing to Quizás, Quizás, Quizás. Yeah, they were no Ibrahim & Omura but no words could explain how heartfelt the whole thing was. Spent the next few hours getting to know some of the most interesting people of Ladbroke Grove. Song has stuck with me ever since..

Have you seen the film Chico & Rita? It’s a staple here at Revision Music – an animated film with a love story set to the back drop of Latin Jazz in Havana, Cuba – as well as 1950s-60s Jazz scene of New York.

I’ve not but I’ve had friends rave about it. Bet your dollar it’s on this weekend’s to-do list!

You pick up the tempo with something by Kaytranada and Syd from The Internet. What do you think of House music and electronic music for clubs in general? Would you be keen to collaborate in these styles of music (that is meant for dancing) in the future?

I feel like we need way more Deep House and Drum & Bass tunes in Singapore clubs man. And hell yes I wouldn’t mind such collaborations. I remember telling Fauxe that I was more excited about the dancey remixes that could come out of Still’s tracks versus the original tracks themselves, haha..

Thank you for including Jat Mahibathi by Yemen Blues, I have never heard it before. I am always on the hunt for Middle Eastern sounds and beats on the daily. Does any of your heritage or ancestry draw you to this type of music and speak to you in some way, culturally?

Glad you dig it! Yes, I do have grandparents on both sides of the family who’ve settled in Singapore from Yemen many many moons ago. Arabic music all day, every day!

I see and hear Jazz as a common theme throughout this playlist. Does your back ground of singing come from Jazz? If so, do you feel that Jazz is ‘free’ ? 

I can’t say it’s intentional as I haven’t actually attended any singing classes. But I have been told that my singing style is similar to that of Billie Holliday’s – who is also a great influence to me, musically. So maybe, just maybe..

Free? I’d say so. I mean jazz is really something else. What are fixed chords & tempos.. haha. I don’t know man. Jazz to me is about improvising and jamming and just feel-good vibes so yes, I would say that jazz is pretty darn free to me.

You wrap up the playlist with a dance number in Bop by Tru Fonix. Will we be seeing you on a dance floor soon? Just kidding, any forth coming projects or live shows you would like to highlight for our readers?

To your first question – yes, yes and yes! Still pinching myself for missing Sub City last weekend. I am in need of a dance floor pronto! At the moment, I’m taking a little post-release break. We are in the middle of planning some things for next year but for now, I’d just like to thank all who’ve shown the Still EP some love since it’s release.

Sweet! I think this wraps up the interview and I would like to thank you again for your time. I am definitely looking forward to hearing more music from you.

Thanks Nez! Looking forward to making more music for sure.

You can purchase Mars B’s Still EP digitally on iTunes & Amazon now.
Check out Mars B’s Spotify playlist for Revision Music below: